Temple Owls

Amid change, senior safety Sean Chandler remains Temple's constant

Amid change, senior safety Sean Chandler remains Temple's constant

Winds of change have blown across 10th and Diamond Streets over the last several months.

Gone are the head coach and his staff who lead the revitalization of the Temple football program, a four-year starter at quarterback who rewrote numerous chapters of school’s record book and seven starters from one of the nation’s stingiest defenses that paved the way toward the Owls’ first conference title since 1967.

In are Geoff Collins and the assistant coaches of his choosing, four underclassmen quarterbacks of limited experience fighting for the starter’s crown before the nationally televised opener at Notre Dame and a youthful infusion of talent on defense.

But as the winds of change settle and the Owls begin to replenish, one constant remains anchored strongly in the defensive backfield — senior safety and four-year starter Sean Chandler.

And now, as his ultimate season, as an Owl draws near, the man they call “Champ” is ready to take on the leadership role he’s prepared the last three years for.

“I feel like I have to play more of that leader role now,” Chandler, a Camden High product who was voted the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, said. “Other guys have left now. So I have to step up to the plate and get the guys to follow behind me.

“When the new coaching staff comes in, I feel like you have to get the guys to buy in, to buy into the team. Now I’m the guy who feels like I have to make that connection from the coaches to the players and bring it all together.”

During his time at Temple, Chandler has been groomed for this type of role under tutelage of program greats such as Tyler Matakevich (now with the Pittsburgh Steelers), Tavon Young (now with the Baltimore Ravens), Haason Reddick (the Arizona Cardinals’ first-round pick this past year) and Avery Williams (in camp with the Houston Texans).

All of those guys always had their fingers on the pulse of the team and knew which buttons to push and when to push them, even during the trying times. They knew when to bump the coaches aside and take matters into their own hands when it came to getting a message across, all while navigating the program’s rise in prominence.

Chandler heard those messages loud and clear.

“I’m willing to fill in any role in any way possible to help this team and help my team win,” Chandler said.

“He has some charisma to him when he speaks up and lets everyone know what he’s thinking,” said Taver Johnson, who is Temple’s new defensive coordinator after spending the last three seasons at Purdue as defensive backs coach. Johnson also spent 2007-2010 as defensive backs coach at Ohio State, where he coached Eagles star safety Malcolm Jenkins.

“He’s got a good personality and, on top of that, he’s a worker. He does a really good job of getting out there and doing a lot of behind-the-scenes things. When the place is shut down, he’s usually here. Even on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday, day or night.”

It’s not like “Champ” was just handed this role because he has the years he does under his belt. Sure, that plays a part. But his actions on the field make him stand out and they do a lot of his speaking for him.

In his three years in cherry and white, Chandler has amassed 185 tackles, 26 pass deflections, seven interceptions (two of which were returned for touchdowns), three sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 32 career games.

The talent and skill and respect have been there from the very beginning. Temple has a tradition of awarding single-digit jersey numbers to players voted the toughest by teammates and the coaching staff. Prior to his first collegiate game in 2014, Chandler was awarded his now customary No. 3 by his teammates. Former head coach Matt Rhule has said he wouldn’t give a single digit to a freshman, but trusted his players and let them overrule him for “Champ.”

A corner by trade at first, Chandler played his first two seasons at Temple on the outside. As Rhule and his staff watched Chandler mature on the field, they decided it would be best for the athletic, versatile 6-foot, 195-pounder’s professional future if they moved him inside to safety. Chandler’s first season on the inside was last year and he excelled with 51 tackles and two picks, all while missing four games with a leg injury.

Others outside of Philadelphia have now taken notice as Chandler is on four preseason award watch lists – the Jim Thorpe Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Bronco Nagurski Award and the Lott IMPACT Award.

The Thorpe Award is for the best defensive back in the country. The three other awards are various defensive player of the year awards.

“It just lets me know people are watching with a close eye now,” Chandler said of having his name on the watch lists.

“But they’re only watch lists. Gotta go win ‘em now.”

Collins has spent the last several seasons as a defensive coordinator with both Mississippi State and Florida in the college football pressure cooker that is the SEC, where defensive dominance reigns supreme among the conference’s and nation’s big boys.

And Collins knows his way around some elite defensive backs.

While at MSU, he coached Detroit Lions corner Darius Slay, who was a second-round pick in 2013.

At Florida, he coached corner Vernon Hargreaves, a three-time All-American, three-time all-SEC selection and the Tampa Bay Bucs’ first-round pick (11th overall) in 2016. Hargreaves made the NFL All-Rookie team last season.

Also while with the Gators, Collins coached safety Keanu Neal, the Atlanta Falcons’ first-round pick (17th overall) in 2016. Neal was also voted to the NFL All-Rookie team last season.

“I’m excited about [Chandler] and he epitomizes ‘Temple Tuff’ and single-digit tough,” Collins said of his senior safety. “He’s back and he’s better than ever. You just see him every day with a look in his eye and a desire to be great. I just think he epitomizes what this program is all about.

“Over the last seven years, I’ve coached some really good defensive backs. Sean Chandler is in that conversation with any of those kids.”

High praise.

But people inside and outside 10th and Diamond certainly are having conversations about the man they call "Champ."

Temple put back on its heels in AAC tourney ouster

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Temple put back on its heels in AAC tourney ouster


ORLANDO, Fla. -- No. 11 Wichita State has advanced to the semifinals of American Athletic Conference tournament.


Landry Shamet scored 24 points, Rashard Kelly had 16 and the Shockers held off pesky Temple for an 89-81 victory on Friday night.

Wichita State (25-6) also got a strong performance from its reserves, including 13 points from Austin Reaves. Next up is the winner of the Houston-Central Florida game.

The Shockers won two of three against the Owls this season, and the outcome was in doubt every time.

"We certainly do bring out the best in them," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "The bottom line is that they make a lot of shots against us, but we usually do get great contributions from our bench. We go 10 or 11 deep and that's a good thing."

Wichita State led 78-75 with 2:23 left and closed it out with 11 foul shots.

Temple stayed close with its perimeter shooting. The Owls went 11 of 24 from 3-pointg range and shot 50.9 percent from the field overall.

Quinton Rose led Temple (17-15) with 25 points. Shizz Alston and Josh Brown each had 15 points for the Owls, who didn't have enough depth to keep pace with Wichita State in the final minutes.

"I loved our fight, I loved how we were hanging with them each and every moment," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "I think late we just needed another basket, another stop, but they're a really good basketball team. They made some veteran plays at the right time."

The Shockers were clinging to a 63-61 lead with eight minutes to play when Reaves, fellow reserve Markis McDuffie and Kelly powered a key 13-3 run. The three combined for 11 points in the surge and helped cool off Rose while leading Wichita State to a 76-64 advantage with just over four minutes remaining.

Shaquille Morris made two foul shots to put the Shockers up 55-45 early in the second half, but the Owls rallied behind Rose. The sophomore guard scored 12 of his team's next 14 points to cut the deficit to 61-59 with 9:10 left.

"Quinton did a great job in that stretch and got us where we needed to be," Dunphy said. "But again, we needed a little better effort at the defensive end and just be a little smarter."

Big picture
Temple: The Owls had some nice early season wins -- Wisconsin, Clemson, Auburn, South Carolina -- but need to take the next step in the conference season. The Owls were only 8-10 in AAC play.

Wichita State: The Shockers are aching for a rematch with top-seeded Cincinnati, but first they'll have to get past the winner of the Houston-UCF game and they've struggled with both. Houston handed Wichita State its worst loss of the season, and UCF took the Shockers to overtime before losing in the second-to-last game of the regular season. Wichita State will need another good night from its reserves to reach the finals.

Temple narrowly avoids disaster

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Temple narrowly avoids disaster


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Shizz Alston Jr. hit three free throws in the final minute and Temple avoided being upset by a lower seed in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament for the second year in a row, holding off Tulane 82-77 Thursday night.

Temple, the No. 7 seed, advances to face second-seeded Wichita State on Friday in the tourney quarterfinals.

Last year the eighth-seeded Owls were upset by No. 9 seed ECU.

Nate Pierre-Louis made a free throw with 1:01 left to give Temple a 77-71 lead, but the 10th-seeded Green Wave roared back behind two Cameron Reynolds 3-pointers sandwiched around an Alston free throw to make it 78-77 with :37 remaining. Alston was fouled with :16 left and hit both free throws to make it 80-77, and Caleb Daniels missed a 3 with :05 left that would have tied the game. Josh Brown added two free throws with a second left to set the final score.

Obi Enechionyia led the Owls (17-14) with 19 points. Alston added 17 points and dished eight assists and Brown added 15 points, six boards, three assists and two steals.

Reynolds hit 3 of 7 from distance and paced Tulane (14-17) with 22 points. Melvin Frazier added 15 points and Samir Sehic and Ray Ona Embo added 11 and 10 points, respectively.